Loving, Losing, and Learning To Let Go

Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock
Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock
As someone who is prone to extreme anxiety and muscle tension, it’s no surprise that I have been carrying a great deal of tension in my body since my husband’s passing. Body scan meditations have been incredibly helpful because they allow me to notice where I am holding tension.

Still, I am facing some strong feelings of resistance. Despite the rational part of my brain knowing it is not possible, a big part of my mind is still fighting for my husband to be alive. It is only during body scans that I can feel my resistance in the form of muscle tension and feel a bit of a release as the practice progresses.

After ten months, you would think the letting go would get easier. In a way, I suppose it has. In yet another way, I know I’m not ready to let go at all.

2015-06-06 10.29.48This month, in particular, will be a tough one. My wedding anniversary is coming up in just a couple days. My husband’s birthday is next week. Without him, these celebratory moments become piercing moments of devastation.

It’s strange how confusing it all is, how difficult to know someone is gone and yet to want them back so badly. It defies all logic, and yet it is human nature. We become attached to people and, when we lose them, it’s as if we’ve lost a part of ourselves.

Knowing that letting go is such an important part of the practice is difficult to embrace. But I know I can’t keep hanging on to the desire for my husband to still be alive. It’s not healthy, and it prevents me from living the rest of my own life.

So, I try to move forward in the best way I know how, by meditating and practicing yoga and continuing to notice the ever-evolving stages of grief. Perhaps one day I will truly accept that my husband is gone, but right now–I just need to make it through this month.

Wishing love and bunniness for all, despite my heavy heart.

For more about grieving:

  • Allowing Room for Healing from Grief
  • Running On Om Podcast
  • Resources:

  • Body Scan Meditation from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program
  • Allowing Room for Healing from Grief

    Today is the first day since my husband’s suicide that I experienced the witness in my meditation. For the past eight months, I have experienced only an ongoing struggle with anger, tears, and racing thoughts that were intractable to say the least.

    Photo: Tonny de Lasson/Shutterstock
    Photo: Tonny de Lasson/Shutterstock
    If I were an enlightened being whose practice had taken me to a level where I no longer held any attachments, perhaps it would have taken less time to reach this stage. But I am not an enlightened being. I am an ordinary person dealing with ordinary life and grieving the loss of someone I loved in the best way I know how.

    To this point, I have tried mostly to be compassionate with myself and to allow room for the grieving process. This meant letting some overwhelming feelings exist in their extreme form for a while. The best I could do was refrain from feeding any additional energy into them.

    At long last, the extreme feelings have settled into more manageable moments of thought. Now, when thoughts arise about incredibly painful aspects of my husband’s death, I can breathe with the pain and let go of the storyline. I feel myself becoming closer to forgiveness for both him and myself, though I know it will still take time.

    While I’m not sure today’s experience is quite cause for celebration, I would say I think it is a sign of healing. I know the experience of losing my husband will color the rest of my life, but it doesn’t have to dictate the rest of my life. I will take this small sign of health as a signal that I am heading in the right direction and as motivation to keep on hopping.

    For more about grieving:

  • Grieving Mindfully with Mindfulness Mutt
  • How to Deal with Intense Emotions in Meditation: 3 Simple Steps
  • Recommended Reading:

    “We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
    – Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

    Grieving Mindfully with Mindfulness Mutt

    Despite having my key with me, I got locked out of my house this morning when I went to walk the dog. I’ve come to accept that life comes with its minor frustrations, but this minor frustration became one of those huge “I can’t believe this is happening to me” ordeals, especially since I have a history of horrible Good Fridays.

    Immediately, I recognized my thoughts trying to run away with me. I reminded myself to breathe with my frustration, and for a moment I thought I did a pretty good job of letting it go.

    Thankful that I’d had the forethought to bring my phone on my walk, I googled 24-hour locksmiths and saw an ad that said, “15 minute response 24/7.” When I called, the man said a tech would call me back. When the tech called, he said he would arrive in 30 minutes.

    Fortunately, I live near a drive-thru Dunkin’ Donuts and I did have my keys with me, after all, so I hopped in the car with my dog. She got wet paw prints all over the seats because it had rained overnight, but I recognized my irritation and reminded myself that wet paw prints do eventually dry.

    I was determined to make the most out of my predicament.

    Coffee in hand, I drove back home to sit on the stoop and enjoy my morning beverage while I waited for the locksmith. 30 minutes later, he called to say he was going to be 10 minutes late. My own patience wearing thin, I tried to see the situation through my dog’s eyes.

    For those of you who like dogs as well as bunnies, please allow me to introduce my dog, Salem (a.k.a. Mindfulness Mutt).

    When the tech finally arrived, I told him I had my key and it just wouldn’t turn. He told me it would cost $325 for him to drill out the lock and let me in. Once he drilled the lock, he told me it would cost another $125 plus labor to replace the doorknob.

    Convinced he was ripping me off, I politely told him to go ahead and do it. He left to get the new lock from his car. And I broke down in tears, very much aware of the fact that the problem never would have occurred if my husband were still alive.

    It is unexpected moments like these that make me miss my husband even more. As much as I try to work with the painful emotions and allow myself to grieve, there are times when it just hits me hard and it feels like it’s never going to get better.

    Then, I am reminded of one of my husband’s favorite quotes, part of the last sentence from Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable:

    “…you must say words, as long as there are any, until they find me, until they say me, strange pain, strange sin, you must go on, perhaps it’s done already, perhaps they have said me already, perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story, that would surprise me, if it opens, it will be I, it will be the silence, where I am, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”

    So, with love, memories, mindfulness–and the knowledge that my pain teaches me more with every tear–I go on.

    Oh, and tears saved me money today, too. When the locksmith heard me crying, he knocked $230 off the price. In a way, I guess my husband is still rescuing me from the problems I sometimes create for myself.

    Looking for the moral of today’s story? Don’t hang bags full of books on your doorknobs. Evidently, the key is not strong enough to turn the lock when there is too much weight on the other side of the door.

    2015-03-30 11.58.25

    How to Deal with Intense Emotions in Meditation: 3 Simple Steps

    As many of you know from a previous post, I lost my husband to suicide last August. If you have noticed me being a bit less frequent in my bunny photo posts since then, this is why. I am still very much grieving.

    Photo: Witsanu Keephimai/Shutterstock
    Photo: Witsanu Keephimai/Shutterstock

    Meditation has helped me enormously—I have no doubt—in dealing with this devastating loss. What I find strange, though, is that memories of my husband don’t come up every time I sit. I would think there would be so many emotions and so many memories to sort through that they would come up in every meditation session.

    Why don’t they?

    Today, I think I found my answer. I am now at a point where the emotions aren’t hitting me at every single moment of every day. They hit me when I am over-stressed or over-tired and they hit me when something unexpectedly triggers a specific memory. When I cued up a guided 30-minute body scan meditation today, it unexpectedly triggered a specific memory.

    At one point, the meditation began focusing on the chest and the heart and the lungs and these precious systems that support life. As soon as I thought about these systems, my mind was taken to the hospital, where I had watched for 90 minutes as 20 or more doctors gathered around my husband’s bed in the ICU and tried to restore his pulse and breathing.

    Of course, tears came. I briefly panicked and awaited the full-body sobs. I thought for a moment that the whole meditation process was a wasted effort. But this kind of thing has happened to me so many times now that I have learned how to deal with it. The approach is always the same:

    • Acknowledge the memory and the emotion;
    • Try not to fight it and just let it be;
    • Gently return to the meditation, when you are ready.

    For me, this meant seeing that hospital scene for a moment and reminding myself I was no longer there. The full-body sobs came and went, briefly, as soon as I allowed myself to feel. And then the task became gently turning my thoughts back to my breathing and the guided meditation.

    As I write this, it sounds so easy. It sounds like I expect that every intense emotion can be handled in one sitting with three simple steps. But the fact is, it is not at all easy. It is incredibly difficult. I have been doing this over and over and over again since August. And I only know it is worth the trouble when I reflect on where I used to be.

    When I read that post from September, I realize how far I have come. The fact that intense emotions don’t come up in every sitting is the result of working through the grieving process in the best way I can. I am fortunate to have made some progress.

    To be fair, I think it is also important to note that I have had some fantastic professional help throughout this entire process. I would encourage anyone dealing with intense emotions to find a reputable therapist and to keep looking until you find one you trust. Meditation can help with intense emotions, but sometimes we all need a little more help. And there is absolutely no shame in asking.

    Today’s meditation was one of the guided meditations included in the Insight Timer App. I am a fan of this app and often use it just for the timer and chimes, but today I used Elisha Goldstein’s 30-minute body scan meditation.

    Elisha Goldstein’s 30-minute body scan meditation is also available online at ElishaGoldstein.com.

    Image: Witsanu Keephimai/Shutterstock.

    Searching for the Bunniness within the Pain

    With special thanks to Del C. for the perfect photo to match how I’m feeling lately, here is a moment of bunniness featuring Apples the English Angora bun.

    Apples the bunny, Photo courtesy of Del C.
    Apples the bunny, Photo courtesy of Del C.

    Please note: If you do not wish to read anything that may trigger negative emotions, please stop reading now.

    From time to time, despite our beliefs and all the structures we have put in place to help us find our strength, life presents us with a challenge that tests us to our limits and even beyond them.

    While the photo of Apples speaks to me, the truth is that the message is quite a bit more difficult. As you may have guessed from my previous post, I have been dealing with some big personal stuff. For a few weeks, I have been hiding in my metaphorical basket, trying to find the courage to emerge and face the world.


    A few weeks ago, my husband and I took a lovely week-long vacation to Maine. Two days after our return, my husband texted me to say he was coming home from work. When he still wasn’t home two hours later, I started to panic. My sister and I called every authority we could imagine. Four hours after his text, the police called to tell me my husband was in an ambulance on his way to a nearby hospital.

    He had intentionally taken a massive overdose of his prescription medications for depression and anxiety. He was unconscious when they found him, and despite the best efforts of doctors at a world-class hospital, he never regained consciousness. He lost all brain function and his organs began to fail one by one. I sat with him in the ICU for four days, and I was holding his hand when his heart stopped.

    He was 33 years old. We were together for 14 of those years. Now, I am left to pick up the pieces of the life we built together. Somehow, I am supposed to move on.

    I try to remind myself of all the teachings on attachment and letting go, but I am at a loss for what I am going to do without him. When I meditate, my breathing gets lost behind all the tears. Attempts at mindfulness turn immediately to memories of the best and the worst moments of our lives together.

    I miss him so much. I loved him more than he knew. I want nothing more than to hold him just one more time. But I can’t. I am having more than a little trouble finding the bunniness within the pain right now. But I know that is what I have to do, and I will continue to try.